Left-Handed pens – Educational pariahs?

June 28, 2010 § 3 Comments

The number of early-learners coming into the PenFountain.com shop in a distressed state to buy their first ‘proper’ pen are a disappointment to us – not to mention their parents!  What should be an exciting milestone in their development has been tainted by their teachers’ response to their ‘disability’.  In common with about 7% of the UK population, they are left-handed.   “Teacher says … hold this pen or that pen and get used to it.”  This should be a time to encourage, to excite, to develop a love for writing, for words, for spelling, for grammar, not a time to put obstacles in the way.  At PenFountain.com we keep a range of inked pens in a pencil case for youngsters to try, both left-, and right-handed.

There is no shortage of choice for the first-time writer either, with specialist starter pen ranges from the Pelikan Griffix, Stabilo S’Move, Staedtler’s Starter and Lamy’s ABC fountain pen ranges. 

Pelikan Griffix is a range of pens which start with the Stage 1, an ‘un-handed’ wax pencil in a pen casing, designed to get

Left-Handed pens for young hands

Staedtler, Pelikan and Lamy pens available for left-handed writers

young hands used to the feel and control of a more formal writing instrument than a basic wax stick.  Stage 2 is a ‘handed’ pencil, Stage 3 a fibre-stick type nib and Stage 4 a fully functioning, cartridge fountain pen.  The 3 later stages are all designed with right- and left-handed grip options offering recesses to ensure the correct finger positioning on the pen and a smiley face logo to reassure the user that they holding it in the correct position. In our opinion, the only downside of the Griffix products is their rather juvenile decoration, particularly for the fountain pen aimed more at an age group in the UK where sophistication becomes an important issue.

Stabilo’s S’Move has received greater awareness through its TV advertising but is only available in pencil and rollerball formats. The water is further muddied through the visual suggestion that the ink is erasable (which it is not).  The same principle of left- and right-handed options and enforced posture operate although, the S’Move is a little more subtle than the Griffix in its grip management.

Staedtler Starter fountain pen is similar in principle to the Griffix but has less pronounced grip features and a slightly less conspicuous decoration than the its competitors.  The Lamy ABC is available to special order from PenFountain.com but, in our view, is slightly anomalous in that it is a basic wooden pen with a less sophisticated grip design but in fountain pen format.  Lamy don’t often get their designs wrong but this could be the exception that proves the rule in terms of design positioning. Why a kindergarten style on a pen targetted at late primary school age?

When asked for advice about first ‘real fountain pens’, it’s no contest in our opinion.  The Lamy Safari hits the mark.  It is durable, not too expensive, has a universal ergonomically designed grip, offers options on cartridge or converter filling, and, most important, a nib system which must be the envy of other manufacturers.  The stainless steel nibs are available in extra fine to 1.9mm and a left-handed option, with a simple slip-on format which allows changing of nibs by choice (or when dropped!) for just £4.00 each.

Our experience has been that parents are amazed to see their offspring try different pens and actually enjoy writing, sometimes for the first time. We have even had to ask whether the child is left- or right-handed tying to analyse the cause of the distress where the parents have failed to recognise the problem.  Interestingly, not all left-handed writers get on with a left-handed nib but, instead, prefer a broad right-handed nib because, as the nib tends to be pushed across the paper, it is less inclined to catch the fibres and dig-in than with a medium nib.  

Not all left-handed writers get on with fountain pens at all because of the tendency to smear freshly written prose with the following hand.  In these cases we have another alternative for producing good quality, crisp text with comfort; the Uniball Jet Stream rollerball.  The Jet Stream is so-called because the ink dries almost immediately preventing the smearing on most ordinary writing papers. These are available in both capped and retractable formats.

What has been even more satisfying for us is the number of parents, seeing the response of their children to a satisfying pen and having tried our recommendations for themselves, have bought themselves their first fountain pen since leaving school!

G.Lalo Verge de France Writing Pad Performance

June 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

The G.Lalo Verge de France writing pads have received many plaudits in the Fountain Pen Network and other blogs but there’s nothing like trying the products at first hand.  At our retail shop, PenFountain.com in Cranleigh, not only do we offer the opportunity to try pens before purchase, we also offer some sample papers.

G.Lalo Verge de France Ivory pad with fountain pen ink

G.Lalo Verge de France Ivory performance demonstration - front

G.Lalo Verge de France performance - rear

 The sample shown here is one of our Verge de France Ivory pads written with a Lamy Studio running a 1.5mm nib and Diamine Damson ink.  The pen writes with generous inking through this broad nib but the Verge de France, with its high quality pulp and 25% cotton content, handles the ink beautifully, without any spidering, despite its laid finish.  From the reverse, the sheet has minimal show-through and no bleeding.

It would be fair to say that the laid finish is not everybody’s taste but, in our experience, the surface does perform well with with numerous fountain pens we have tried.  The pads are available in a range of colours with matching envelopes from PenFountain.com  We endeavour to keep the colours offered in stock.

Cross puts lead in your ballpoint

June 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

Cross have launched their Switch-it ballpoint – pencil converter. The Cross Switch-it pencil convertor is a pencil lead cartridge which simply substitutes a fully function pencil mechanism for an existing ballpoint refill in a Cross ballpoint pen.  The mechanism slips in and screws in place and, once the push-fit cap is replaced, using the pen’s twist mechanism, the lead cartridge extends and a further twist then extends the 0.7mm lead.  A reverse twist retracts the cartridge to protect any extended lead.  The Cross Switch-it also comes with an eraser in the end which is accessed by removing the cap.

Cross ballpoint to pencil convertor
Cross ballpoint to pencil convertor

We have tried the Switch-it and, if you want a pencil either as well as or instead of  a ballpoint, this is an ideal tool.  If you would prefer other formats, the Cross rollerball pens are fitted with their Selectip system which offers a rollerball as a standard fitting but substitution with a jumbo ballpoint or a fibre tip refill.

Caran d’Ache puts one in the middle of the Ecridor range

June 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

The Caran d’Ache Ecridor fountain pen range has been extended with the recent introduction of the Cubrik.  Based on the successful format of a brass hexagonal barrel over-plated with silver and rhodium, and finished with a high quality rhodium plated steel nib, the Cubrik bridges the gap between the highly successful Retro and the premium priced Type 55.  The Retro and the similarly decorated Chevron both feature light etched patterns panelled in each of the sides of the hexgonal barrel and cap.  Although similarly priced to the Retro, the Cubrik features a more defined pattern in the form of infinity cubes (which mess with your eyes in close-up!), making the style closer to the Type 55.

The Caran d’Ache Cubrik flanked by the Retro and Type 55

The Ecridor design can trace it’s roots back to the 1940’s but what was good in those times still works today with a good, solid design, suitable for everyday writing.  While the nib is a rhodium plate steel number, the Type 55 has recently been introduced with an 18 ct gold, rhodium plated, option with a price premium.  At penFountain.com we can supply these to special order.  Please contact us to discuss.

Parker Sonnet 10 Hallmarking

June 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

Parker have recently launched the Sonnet 10 series, part of a family of pens featuring a grid style pattern which covers a range of models across the price spectrum.  In our opinion, this is a strong design which differentiates the new Parker models from its competitors.   The new Parker Sonnet 10 Sterling Silver model is a lovely pen having great presence without being excessively large.  It is available in fountain pen, standard ballpoint and slimline ballpoint.
Parker's Sonnet 10 Sterling Silver hallmarks

Parker's Sonnet 10 Sterling Silver hallmarks

  However, the hallmarking is extremely small and, coupled with the unpolished silver surface, may look a little like manufacturing faults. The marks are embossed just above the chrome band and in close-up look like the picture attached.  The 925 signifies 92.5% purity with the remaining 7.5% probably comprising of copper. The second mark is the makers’ mark.

If you are planning a marriage, we think the Parker Sonnet 10 would make a wonderful memento of such a special occasion.

Rhodia Webnotebook test

June 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

Much has been written about the importance of the writing surface to produce the best results for your fountain pen.  We have recently been exploring this issue with a view to improving our writing pad offer at PenFountain.com.  We have opted for the Rhodia range of papers and pads in preference to the much hyped Moleskine. 

The pad illustrated is the A5 Rhodia Webnotebook, a perfect bound notebook with 192 pages of brushed vellum, 90gsm paper, rigid cover, and elastic strap.   Because of the weight of ink delivered, we have used a Conway Stewart Duro with Medium Italic nib to demonstrate the paper’s performance.

Rhodia Webnotebook ink handling

Close-up of ink line on Rhodia Webnotebook paper

  The line is exceptionally wet and, even with this performance, there is no bleeding-through of the ink and even show-through is negligible.

Limited show-through on Rhodia Webnotebook

Reverse of Rhodia Webnotebook page

Such is the the performance of the Rhodia Webnotebook that a customer recently travelled quite some distance to purchase a Caran d’Ache Leman fountain pen from us and whilst in the shop tried the Rhodia Webnotebook.  He felt that having spent quite a significant amount on his pen, and having recently treated himself to a Moleskine, couldn’t justify further expenditure on the Rhodia.  However, having got home and pondered over it, he couldn’t resist the temptation and ordered the Webnotebook on-line the next day!

There is life outside Mont Blanc

June 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

For those brand-blinded individuals who regard Mont Blanc as the holy grail of pens, sit up and take note: there are other brands, equally good, but with better after sales support from real pen sellers who care about their customers.
We have anecdotal evidence of disappointing response from Mont Blanc when customers have had problems and we have made many sales from disaffected MB users who have walked away delighted with our proposed alternatives.
MB have declared openly that their’s is a lifestyle brand in which the pens are no longer central. Instead they want to offer jewellery, leather goods and watches with pens taking the last place and making availability of its products through jewellery outlets rather then pen specialists.
Please, do not misunderstand, the pens are extremely good, it’s the rest of package which, in our opinion, has the potential to disappoint.
If you are thinking of ‘upgrading’ look at the Caran d’Ache Leman series, Pelikan, particularly the M625, or even the Waterman Elegance series. All the quality without the ubiquity and support from pen-minded people.

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